<< With or Without Me

Jiri Skála

Czech artist, founding member of the art groups PAS (‘Production of Activities of the Contemporary’, with Vit Havránek and Tomas Vanek) and ‘Brody-Freso-Skála-Simera’ (with Ondrej Brody, Victor Freso and Evzen Simera). Lives and works in Prague.


Can you tell about your collaborative work in art?

I participate in several projects with other artists and am founding member of two groups, the first is called PAS, the other one we chose to call by our second names. With the first one we made four events, always concentrating on projects, but I don’t think we will work any more, because the other two guys are quite busy. The other one is a different kind of collaboration because there we always choose a different topic, a term, and afterwards we do separate works.

That doesn’t seem to be proper collaboration. It’s more like a group show…

Yes, but at the beginning is somewhere between a collaboration and a curatorial project, as we are the ones that choose the theme. For example, the first exhibition we did was called ‘Take it personally’. This was about how the whole society is mirrored in a restricted circle or community as in the art scene for example. I mean, we live in a very liberal society, everything is permitted but there are so many bad feelings, between people, that are not supposed to be made public because it wouldn’t be “correct”; but they nevertheless are there “in the air” among people. Like for example: ‘I hate this or that person’. So it was also about how the negative energies like personal dislikes can be important in art making.

If it’s about personal feelings, what is your biggest problem in collaborative situations?

In this group the situation is that we are very strong personalities and as we are trying to do our fifth project, it is about these personal problems I just mentioned, between us. So, the way we started our work together, we finish that way (laughing). On the other hand, I like collaboration, half of my work was produced in collaboration, so it is something that is very important for me, it’s one of the main reasons why I’m doing or why I like art. But people all the time have to concentrate on communication and it’s all the time about psychology, so it first of all depends on the personality of the artist you are collaborating with. Like in the PAS group everything is perfect except one problem, namely that we are getting older and we have to look for our personal carriers, so we agreed that our personal carriers are more important.

That was the basic statement?

No, rather what is behind the basic statements.

Did you ever have a strong conflict?

No, in the first group I didn’t. I’m able to work together with anyone; I’m good at compromises – with artists, not with curators. That’s a different position.

Can you name a curator that you hate?


And an artist?

No, I can’t hate an artist; as I said, I’m able to make compromises. We are in the same boat.

What do you think of long term collaborations? What are the features that can make a collaboration durable?

In Czech Republic there is a group called Rafani, and they are very well organized as a group. They have very strong rules; they have meetings every Tuesday in the same bar. And as they have these strong rules, these helped them to stay together; now they are together for six years or so, with only one guy that left the group. What I want to say is that I miss these strong rules in the groups that I’m involved with, because these rules help the group to concentrate on common projects, other than the members’ own projects.

Do you see any difference between a project made by an art group and a project made by an individual artist?

There is a psychological background to it, as when you are in an art group, you can do more aggressive art. And the psychological reason to that is that you feel safer in a group, so it’s just pure psychology. And another thing is that a group helps the artist to find the mistakes.

You mean in an art piece made by a group the whole production is more controlled?

And the discussions help you to learn more about art. I don’t know, it’s all the time about personal things. An art group can also help you with your personal projects, as a group can give new points of views to your own art. For me it was also important to have these groups after the school finished.

Could you tell me about any of your negative experiences?

You know, I try to be positive, as my role, that I normally choose in groups, is the one of a diplomat. So normally that’s me who has to save certain situations between people. Maybe I’m stupid to do this. My main problem that I had was about an exhibition around six months ago, where only one day before the opening a huge fight started between two other members of the group, and that was the most difficult situation I had in an artistic collaboration.

Was it an artistic problem?

Yes, between two guys, about the installation of the piece, and I had to keep attention to it very much.
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